Feeds

What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this

Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

Vid Harvard University computer scientists have built a 1,000-strong robot army that can form itself into shapes with little human input.

KIlobots

And I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords (click to enlarge)

The machines, dubbed kilobots because there are 1,024 of them, each contain an Atmel micrcontroller, two vibrating motors powering rigid legs that allow them to skitter across smooth surfaces, and an infrared emitter-sensor pair to receive commands and communicate wirelessly. They can form into various shapes, including a starfish and the letter K, according to a paper to be published in Science.

Youtube video of the kilobots

The researchers beamed into the droids images of the forms they wanted the robots to take. Four robots act as stationary anchor points and the rest of the kilobots organize around them by communicating with their peers and moving along the edge of the swarm until they are in the correct position.

The team took their inspiration from the way ants, termites, and swallows cooperate in nature. By mimicking biological systems the team hopes to develop artificial intelligence systems that could be used to organize more advanced robots.

"Increasingly, we're going to see large numbers of robots working together, whether its hundreds of robots cooperating to achieve environmental cleanup or a quick disaster response, or millions of self-driving cars on our highways," said Radhika Nagpal, Fred Kavli Professor of Computer Science at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

"Understanding how to design 'good' systems at that scale will be critical. We can simulate the behavior of large swarms of robots, but a simulation can only go so far. The real-world dynamics—the physical interactions and variability—make a difference, and having the Kilobots to test the algorithm on real robots has helped us better understand how to recognize and prevent the failures that occur at these large scales."

Nagpal's robo-swarm has been in development for a few years now – the video below shows the mob previously pushing stuff around in a totally non-terrifying way – but the paper published tomorrow will detail how her team corralled more than a thousand bots at once.

Youtube video of the robots swarming to move things

The team has published the robots' mechanical blueprints, schematics, microcontroller firmware and other software – and it hopes others will take the idea forward. So if there's a budding megalomaniac with plans for world domination out there, it's time to get cracking. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
GRAV WAVE DRAMA: 'Big Bang echo' may have been grit on the scanner – boffins
Exit Planet Dust on faster-than-light expansion of universe
SpaceX Dragon cargo truck flies 3D printer to ISS: Clawdown in 3, 2...
Craft berths at space station with supplies, experiments, toys
That glass of water you just drank? It was OLDER than the SUN
One MEELLION years older. Some of it anyway
Big dinosaur wowed females with its ENORMOUS HOOTER
That's right, Doris, I've got biggest snout in the prehistoric world
Japanese volcano eruption reportedly leaves 31 people presumed dead
Hopes fade of finding survivors on Mount Ontake
Relive the death of Earth over and over again in Extinction Game
Apocalypse now, and tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that ...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.